Why I Can’t Stand The Word “Viral”

by Vered DeLeeuw

It seems as if everyone these days wants their content or their product to go VIRAL. As a social media consultant, I hear the word “viral” so often that sometimes I just want to SCREAM.

Here are a few observations on the concept of viral:

1. Most of the time, viral happens naturally and organically, not thanks to some genius marketing tactic but because the product is truly awesome and perfectly scratches an itch.

2. In most such cases, you didn’t even realize the itch existed, until you released the product and it caught on fire.

3. No amount of marketing will turn an OK product into a viral product.

4. Not all companies need viral. Viral is very good for social media apps or for websites that rely on lots of traffic to make money. But there’s still place in the market for slow, steady growth of a useful, reliable product from a company who cares about her audience, responds to them and provides great customer service.

5. Viral can be risky. It can cause your company or product to be flavor of the month, idolized by an audience that will be quick to move on to the next thing.

I’m not saying that viral is bad, or that we can’t plan for viral and that it has to happen naturally. No doubt, the combination of a great product that answers a real need, and creative marketing, can create huge opportunities for companies. I just feel that the term “Viral” has been widely overused in the past couple of years.

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